Build According to the Standard of Jesus
In your experience, do you have to deal with an unrepentant brother where, as a group, you have to throw him out of fellowship because of immorality and things like that, like in the biblical example?
In twenty years it’s probably happened twenty times, if even that many times. But here’s what’s interesting: almost all of those twenty people were people we welcomed in for all of the wrong reasons, in the first five or ten years we were a church in our city. We worked with them for many years, in spite of much evidence that their “relationship with God” was counterfeit and their hearts were far from Him.
Here’s the lesson in that. In the early days, we didn’t know the BIBLE Standard of Jesus as to what it means to be a Christian. We didn’t really understand that just because a person says he’s a Christian doesn’t mean he is a Christian. Jesus said, “MANY will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord!’” They even do miracles in His name (Matthew 7:21-23). Jesus said, “MANY” who call themselves “christians” and followers of Him (or even call themselves “leaders”—this is the context of what Jesus said) are not even christians at all! Jesus said a lot of people will call themselves “christians” and even “christian leaders,” but He said, “I never knew you. You were never a Christian. I never knew you. Depart from Me into outer darkness. You pretended to be a Christian. You said, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but I never knew you. It was just a game to you. You were a fake.”
Some of the people who we’ve had to disfellowship—where we had to say to them, “Sorry, no more” (1 Corinthians 5)—repented and came back, and like the prodigal son, they became even more dear to us. Others showed how evil they were because as soon we said, “No more,” they became VERY evil. But almost all of them were people from the early days when we were basically accepting anyone who called himself a Christian. We assumed that they were. We’re much more discerning about that now. (See RevolutionDancing.com) We don’t just automatically assume that everyone who says they’re a Christian is a Christian. NOW we will take time to get to know them, in our homes and lives, as we would any unBeliever seeking Jesus.
We are NOT centered around “meetings” since the church in the Bible had no such attendance-based, meeting-based existence. In a “meeting” everyone seems Spiritual, especially those who have “knowledge” or can “talk real good.” NO! THAT is not the Christianity of the Bible. Let them live and love in such a way as they get to know God’s People in their homes, that Jesus is evidenced as living inside of them. Then our trust can build around Jesus, not their boasts or claims about their “great relationship with God.” Jesus said, “MANY” will make that claim who “never knew Him.” Relationships are the “doorway” into the “Household of Faith”—not meetings or claims by those who may not have Jesus at all, who may have only words or deeds or borrowed information from books to impress others. We interact with them in relationship, so we can know if Jesus is there, or if it’s just empty religion.
Let’s say there was a religious person here who’s a waiter. He finishes his work shift and he’s overheard us talking in the restaurant. He says, “Oh, I want to come be with you guys. I’m a follower of Jesus. Let me come sit with you!” We would not assume he was a Christian just because he said he was. Jesus already promised that the road is broad, filled with people who claim to be Christians and say, “Lord, Lord.” We HOPE he’s a Christian. We’re enthusiastically hopeful, but we don’t assume it.
Maybe he sits down here with us and he’s having attitude problems. Or he believes false doctrines and he’s trying to push false doctrines on people, and he’s very aggressive about it. We still wouldn’t know for sure that he’s not a Christian, but we would begin to wonder because Jesus said many people claim to be Christians, and they’re not. “They want to gather a great number of people after them to tell them what their itching ears want to hear.” In other words, they’re teachers of large numbers of people with “itching ears” who aren’t even Christians.
In the last fifteen years or so, we have moved a little more slowly. We let people demonstrate in their relationship with us that they are Christians with a Living Jesus inside of them, rather than just words and claims. We’re not going to invite everybody home who says they’re a Christian. Eventually, maybe in time, we’ll see that this person really does love Jesus, and they’ll become part of our lives and part of the Church.
So yes, it has happened about twenty times. Almost all of those were people who probably never were Christians in the first place, but we assumed they were. We let them move in and sort of take position, and plant their feet in our midst, but “their going out proved they were never among us,” like John said. Or like Jude said, “They ate at our love feasts without the slightest qualm, but blackest darkness was reserved for them. They were just dead driftwood. They were twice dead. They tried to win people with flattery, but they’re going to hell for sure, even though they ate at the love feasts for a while.”
You may have people like that in your midst, especially if you have built wrong in the first place. If you were attendance-based in the first place, you will have people there who are not Christians. You will. You do. Even though they act like Christians and talk like Christians, and know their Bible and sing and worship really well. But you will find out when you get involved in their lives and you speak the Word of God to them that they don’t care. They don’t want to change. They don’t want to repent. They want to gather people after themselves and they do not love the Light. Jesus said, “This is the verdict. Some love the Light. Some hate the Light” (John 3:19-21). Those who love the Light may not be very mature, but that’s how you know they belong to Jesus: they want to change, although they might be very weak and very sinful.
There are those in our midst, fully saved by the Blood and Spirit of Jesus, contributors to our lives daily, who used to be liars, thieves, homosexuals, God-haters, and drug addicts. There are those in the church where we live who had a lot of very difficult sins that they are free of now because God healed them, and they loved the Light. They wanted to deal with their sin. They wanted to be free. Others don’t love the light, and are none of His. It took us a little while to understand that we were building wrong in the early years, by simply taking people’s words and claims at face value, whereas God has a clear Standard (1John 1 through 1John 3, for example) of who is a Christian, and who is lying about their relationship with God.
For a few years early on, as people do in most countries (if they don’t know what the Bible says!), we were allowing people to think they were part of the Church even though their lives were far from Him. Over the last twelve years or so, we’ve very rarely done that, though still a person can turn away from Jesus when they had originally seemed sincere. Jesus spoke of this in the Parable of the Soils, and it is clear throughout the Scriptures. Because we are more aware of what God has said on the topic in the Scriptures, rather than believing the traditions and lukewarm teachings of men—as most in every country are still taught—we are more able to see through a person who is a pretender; they begin to show themselves fairly early.
Instead of bringing them closer into our lives when we see that they want to love the world, and they want the affections of men, rather than Jesus, we usually just gently let them go on to other things. We push them out of the nest to go “attend” someplace where “leaven” is welcomed and unchallenged, if they wish. They’re more than happy to do that, usually.
Your first few years of living this way—your first two or three years especially—will bring you much heartache if you have, up to this point, been building around attendance and teaching instead of the Life of Jesus. You will have people in your midst who show themselves to be pretenders, and they’ll break your heart. That’s a prophecy, and that’s a historically documented Truth. See the Book of Jude for some very clear Truths from God about this. It takes a while to find out who really loves Jesus, and it’s not by how spiritual they “seem” to be. This happens everywhere. Even the devil appears spiritual until you question him further. He knows the Scriptures. Even the demons believe and tremble. They know the Scriptures. But if you question a little further, then they will begin to expose themselves.
Over the course of the next twenty-four months, if you build the way we’re talking about—pouring your life into people, spending yourself as the pearl for people, in the midst as one who serves, rather than being attendance-based—you’ll begin to find out who people really are. Some people who seemed weak will blossom and explode with Glory. On the contrary, others who seemed spiritual will stab you in the back and cut you up because their motives are not pure. Just expect that. You now know in advance that it’s going to happen!
It happened to us. We had about twenty people like that, who stabbed us. Some of them, even twenty years later, are still stabbing us in the back. They tell filthy lies about us and write letters that are just filled with lies. There is no truth at all in the things that they say. We haven’t even seen them in twelve years, and they’re still making up stories; it’s unbelievable. They act like they know us, and we’ve not even seen them in twelve years. But we disfellowshipped them for sin twelve years ago and they went insane. Others, like the prodigal son, lived in the pigpen long enough to realize they weren’t pigs and they came back to the Father’s house. They grew up. They changed.
In this world, as Jesus said, “You will have many tribulations.” We will have troubles in this world, and part of it is trying to deal with God’s people and those who pretend to be God’s people. But, there is much Beauty in living Jesus’ Life Together, “as if God were making His appeal through us” as Paul said. It is an honor and privilege, and does beautiful things inside of us if we are Faithful in spite of the challenges.
And remember this, please: We don’t invite people to meetings. We invite them into relationship. They don’t attend services. We invite them to come to our house for dinner. We say, “What do you know about Jesus? Where are you in your walk with Jesus—how does it play out in your family, your job, your neighborhood, and your relationships? How do you feel about your life right now? Tell us about your family, and we’ll tell you about ours.” We begin to wrestle through their life and our life, and those that want to love Jesus begin to emerge. Those that have an agenda and want the world will run away…They don’t cause any trouble because they’re just gone.
If people come in through the door of relationship it’s easy to solve the problem. If they come in through the door of “attending a meeting” (they CANNOT with us, or a true church) it’s very hard to solve the problem. A person can get way out of control and hurt a lot of people, and there is little you can do about it without being heavy-handed. We don’t ever want to be heavy-handed. If the way we get to know someone is by “inviting them to a meeting,” then there are huge problems ahead. YOU will create problems by building around “meetings” rather than the LIFE of Jesus, daily, in your homes. If any person is allowed to believe they can “join you” by “attending a meeting regularly” you have harmed them, and they will likely harm others you love.
NO one should ever be allowed to think they can come into your lives and the church through the “doorway” of attending a meeting—whether it’s in a home, a big building or a little building. If they think they’re part of you and come in through the “attendance” door—they just show up, and you don’t know their life and they don’t know yours—if they come in through that door, you have created problems. You’re planting weeds that will multiply a year from now, two years from now, five years from now, and they will rip your heart out. They will hurt you badly.
If they come in through the doorway of relationship, “Come to my house, and let’s get to know each other,” you’ll begin to see some people who want to love Jesus, even if they’re immature and worldly. You’ll also begin to see who doesn’t want to love Jesus, but instead wants to be in control, or love the world. You’ll begin to push those people away and close your heart to them. But you will embrace and help and open your heart to those who want to love Jesus. Then the problems a year from now will be almost nothing, whereas if it’s through the doorway of attendance, the problems a year from now will be increased. So that’s just a good lesson. You don’t have to learn the hard way like we did. We suffered a lot because for five years we didn’t know what I just said to you in twenty minutes.
When you said a while ago that twelve of you decided to move, was that twelve families?
No, it was five or six singles, three or four families and some children. It wasn’t very long before it was fifty and a hundred and two hundred and two hundred and fifty. It didn’t take very long before the attractiveness of “see how they love one another” began to draw people who wanted to know more. The problem is that we weren’t very discerning at a time when we needed a lot of discernment. Out of the next two hundred and fifty people who became part of the Church, twenty of them were deceivers, but we didn’t know it. We would know it now. We would know eighteen out of twenty of them now, and the other two God would hide from our eyes because He wants to spank us two years from now. That’s okay.
Most of the problems in churches today are man-made problems. Cultural christianity has created its own problems. They’re self-inflicted wounds. “I’m bleeding!” Well yes, you stabbed yourself with a knife. Of course you’re bleeding. Most of the problems in the church-world today are caused because things have not been built God’s way from the beginning, and then we try to fix them later. If we build God’s way, a lot of problems are solved before they ever become problems.
If we build man’s way, then the ship starts to sink and we spend our time running around the bottom of the boat trying to plug holes all the time. We don’t have our eyes sailing toward the beautiful place anymore because we’re spending all of our time trying to plug the holes in the boat. I know you know what I mean, because you’re Christians. You’ve been in the church-world. You know exactly what I mean. You want to keep your eyes on the destination of Jesus, but you’re so burdened by trying to plug all the holes in the boat that you can’t go on the top deck or up the masts to the eagle’s nest and look and enjoy the sunsets anymore. Well, that’s because we’ve built man’s way, so most of our problems are self-inflicted. The closer we come to building God’s way, the fewer of these kinds of problems we’ll have five years from now.